The Hospice Insider | March 24, 2016
According to research, people who receive hospice care can live longer than those who do not use hospice.
In 2007, a study was published by the Journal of Pain and Symptom Management that hospice care may prolong the lives of terminally ill patients. The study was sponsored by the National Hospice and Palliative Care Organization and conducted by the NHPCO and Milliman, Inc., a highly regarded actuarial firm.
Patients who chose hospice care lived an average of one month longer than patients that did not chose hospice care. The mean survival was 29 days longer for hospice vs. non-hospice patients.
Donald Schumacher, NHPCO president and CEO claimed “There’s an inaccurate perception among the American public that hospice means you’ve given up. Those of us who have worked in the field have seen firsthand how hospice can improve the quality of and indeed prolong the lives of people receiving care. Benefits of hospice have been reinforced by positive stories like that of Art Buchwald who seemed to thrive under the care of hospice.”
The research cited several factors that may have contributed to longer life for hospice care patients:
- Patients already in a weakened condition avoid the risk of overtreatment.
- Hospice may improve the monitoring and treatment patients receive.
- Hospice provides in-home care from a hospice team that provides emotional and spiritual support as well as the physical health of the patient.
- Family support and training for caregivers may increase the desire to continue living and may make them feel less of a burden to family members.
Dr. Stephen Connor is NHPCO’s vice president of research and international development, and was the lead author of the study. “There is a perception among some healthcare providers that symptom relief in hospice, especially the use of opioids and sedatives, could cause patients to die sooner than they would otherwise. This study provides important information to suggest that hospice is related to the longer, not shorter length of survival – by days or months – in many patients. This additional time may be valuable to patients and families to give more time for resolution and closure.”